In Search of Jefferson's Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace

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In 1787, Thomas Jefferson, then the American Minister to France, had the "complete skeleton, skin & horns" of an American moose shipped to him in Paris and mounted in the lobby of his residence as a symbol of the vast possibilities contained in the strange and largely unexplored New World. Taking a cue from Jefferson's efforts, David Post, one of the nation's leading Internet scholars, here presents a pithy, colorful exploration of the still mostly undiscovered territory of cyberspace—what it is, how it works, and how it should be governed.

What law should the Internet have, and who should make it? What are we to do, and how are we to think, about online filesharing and copyright law, about Internet pornography and free speech, about controlling spam, and online gambling, and cyberterrorism, and the use of anonymous remailers, or the practice of telemedicine, or the online collection and dissemination of personal information? How can they be controlled? Should they be controlled? And by whom? Post presents the Jeffersonian ideal—small self-governing units, loosely linked together as peers in groups of larger and larger size—as a model for the Internet and for cyberspace community self-governance. Deftly drawing on Jefferson's writings on the New World in Notes on the State of Virginia, Post draws out the many similarities (and differences) between the two terrains, vividly describing how the Internet actually functions from a technological, legal, and social perspective as he uniquely applies Jefferson's views on natural history, law, and governance in the New World to illuminate the complexities of cyberspace.

In Search of Jefferson's Moose is a lively, accessible, and remarkably original overview of the Internet and what it holds for the future.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An interesting book...[from] one of the nation's leading Internet scholars... I hope you will keep Jefferson's moose in mind in the days ahead."—Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet

"Reading this beautifully written and extraordinarily diverse work today is what it must have been like to know or read Jefferson then. Post has crafted an experience in understanding that allows us to glimpse the genius that Jefferson was, and to leave the book astonished by the talent this extraordinary writer is."—Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law, Stanford Law School, and author of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace and Remix

"Now and then, ingenious insight yields an authentic work of genius. David Post's musing about cyberspace, the law, history, and a great deal more has produced such a work, conceived and written in the finest Jeffersonian spirit.—Sean Wilentz, Professor of History, Princeton University, and author of The Rise of American Democracy

"David Post is the Jefferson of cyberspace, and in this creative, playful, and entirely original book, he applies Jefferson's insights about governing the American frontier to think about governance on the Net. Even those who don't share all of Post's intuitions will be enlightened by his unique combination of technical precision and romantic imagination."—Jeffrey Rosen, Author of The Unwanted Gaze and The Naked Crowd

"A fresh, insightful, and eminently readable look at cyberspace policy. It's surprising and fascinating how much the debates of 200 years ago continue to be relevant today and continue to be echoed today, even in media about which Jefferson and Hamilton could not have dreamed."—Eugene Volokh, Professor of Law, UCLA

"Jefferson's Moose is brilliant—and a joy to read. It is the book of a career: sweeping in scope, without dropping a stitch of detail. No one but David Post could have produced this sparkling analysis of the relationship between the world and worldview of Thomas Jefferson and today's puzzles of cyberspace."—Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Co-Founder, Berkman Center for Internet & Society; author, The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It

"[Post's] book addresses important questions that we all should be asking, and he acknowledges the scope of his undertaking with a candid humility that would have pleased Jefferson."—Greg Ross, American Scientist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195342895
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/21/2009
  • Series: Law and Current Events Masters Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,517,431
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David Post is currently the I. Herman Stern Professor of Law at the Beasley School of Law at Temple University, where he teaches intellectual property law and the law of cyberspace. He is also an Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute, a Fellow at the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School, and a contributor to the influential Volokh Conspiracy blog. For more information, please visit:

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Table of Contents

A Note to the Reader

Prologue: The Fox, the Hedgehog, and the Moose

Part I: Chaos
Chapter 1: Mapping the Territory: The Geography of Nowhere
Chapter 2: Population
Chapter 3: Networks
Chapter 4: Jefferson's Moose, and The Problem of Scale (I)
Chapter 5: The Problem of Scale (II)
Chapter 6: Connections
Chapter 7: Language, I


Part II: Order
Chapter 8: Language II
Chapter 9: Governing Cyberspace I: Code
Chapter 10: Governing Cyberspace II: Names
Chapter 11: Governing Cyberspace III: Law
Chapter 12: Newton's Plow, and The Condition of the General Mind

Epilogue: Jefferson's Nature, and the Nature of Cyberspace

References and Suggested Readings
I. Prologue: The Fox, The Hedgehog, and The Moose
Philadelphia, 2006
Virginia, 1781: Notes on the New World
II. Notes on the New World, Part I: Chaos
1. Mapping the Territory: The Geography of Nowhere
2. Population
3. Networks
4. The Problem of Scale (I)
5. The Problem of Scale (II)
6. Jefferson's Moose, and the Degenerate Animals of the New World
7. Language
III. Interlude
Two Kinds of People
Looking West
Looking Forward
IV. Notes on the State of Cyberspace, Part II: Order
8. Pathways and Settlements
9. Governing Cyberspace, I: Code
10. Governing Cyberspace, II: Law
11. Governing Cyberspace, III: Getting it to Scale
12. Newton's Plow: Property on the Frontier
V. Epilogue
Jefferson's Moose, The Laws of Nature, and the Nature of Cyberspace

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2009

    Fascinating, uniquely intelligent, and fun!!

    This book is one of the most interesting I've ever heard of, let alone read. The title, the basic concept (a book on Jefferson and the Internet??), the author's early admission of not knowing quite what the book really was about, all caught my attention. Added to this, the two subjects are ones I've always had a serious genuine curiosity about, but was too lazy to investigate. While I loved learning about Jefferson and the Internet -- and the amazing digressions that are uniquely woven into the story -- what I loved most was how unique and exciting the writing was. Clearly Prof Post loved making this book and that is clear on every page. This was 200 pages of the most fun reading I've had in quite some time. You will love reading this book, and you'll agree that it is unlike anything you've read before.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 26, 2009

    fascinating stuff

    This is a really wild and interesting book. Using Jefferson's "Notes on the State of Virginia" as a springboard, Post illuminates all sorts of interesting things about cyberspace - how it works, what has made it special, how it is organized and, in the second half of the book, how it should be governed and how its laws should be made. It's wonderfully well-written -- clear and compelling and to the point. Highly recommended.

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    Posted January 9, 2009

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    Posted June 27, 2010

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